Getting Around To It: (Story 3)

The Importance of the Follow Through in Work and Life

Wishes and dreams of what you might professionally do “one day” aren’t goals until you take a little action. And those fledgling goals, born of a little action, don’t grow up and truly manifest at work or elsewhere unless you persevere and believe.

A dear friend recently shared with me the following passage and philosophy, and applied it to the talent of fine and enlightened parenting:

I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in you. — Blaise Pascal

Whether as a parent, friend, colleague or boss, wouldn’t it be teriffic if we all found the time and capacity to declare that sentiment to those we cherished in our personal circle? to those in whom we truly believed? And wouldn’t it also be wonderful if you gave that gift to yourself a little more often, too…and really meant it (because, let’s face it, sometimes there just isn’t always the right person available to cheer you when you could surely use some encouragement).

“I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in you.”

I offer you the following three Working Wisdom tales, over three consecutive days, in the spirit (no pun intended) of Charles Dicken’s, “Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future”, from A Christmas Carol. All three are true stories shared to illustrate my point about the power of believing in your favourite others, and also in yourself:

Story Three (The Ghost of Wisdom Yet to Come): The Guy Who Took The Road Less Travelled, From Fisheries and Wildlife, Through Marketing and Communications, on His Ultimate Professional Way to World Religions and Cultural Anthropology

Holding a diploma in Fisheries and Wildlife, once out of college my husband ended up in…not-for-profit fundraising? Yup–an unusual landing place, indeed, given his education. In his next reinvention of his professional self, he was the administrator/owner of an international personal development training company, eventually owning six franchises of this operation across North America. Ten years later, and once again reinventing himself, he became a sought-after marketing, communications and media relations consultant (all the while, demonstrating a strong sense of community volunteerism). Then one day, for no particular reason beyond, perhaps, the perpetual news of world conflicts fought on a backdrop of religious convictions, Cameron sleuthed out a copy of the Koran, and the Torah and the Bible, and supplemented those with university texts examining the lot. His focus and keen budding interest was not one of religion, divinity or theology but, rather, history and anthropology–searching for answers as to, “How the heck did we get here from there???”. He spent most of the glorious summer of ’06 with his nose in these heavy-duty (both to read and lift!) volumes. He was no fun anymore. Just kidding. These books were like bricks and I tripped over them, left on the floor, more than once!

In one part exasperation, and one part encouragement, I egged Cameron on with, “If you’re going to be reading these humungous volumes for the next decade, repeatedly threatening the health of my big toes to boot (no pun intended), you should be getting formal credit for all your studies! Why don’t you go back to school and get your degree? You’re already doing all the work!” Aha! A light bulb went on and the nut of an idea was born. You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for , ’cause you’re gonna get it”? Well…

As we live ten minutes from the downtown University of Toronto Campus, for Cameron it was U of T or bust! And so he trekked to the suburban hinterlands to fetch his high school transcript, in preparation for applying to his one-choice-only university. We all thought he’d be a shoe-in! Except for one thing…his grades, as it turned out, were nowhere near as good as he’d remembered. Isn’t that funny how we can elevate and fictionalize our performance standards as the years go by? Presenting only a c+ average from high school transcripts, and armed with his proud years of diverse business expertise-always as an entrepreneur since the age of 25–Cam held his breath and applied anyway. And like so many parents and teenagers awaiting university acceptance replies, we rushed to the mailbox daily. The day finally came. Cam tore open the envelope, unfolded the letter–already a little apprehensive for the envelope was slim, not bulky with brochures and such–and read the words of his decline. Based on what? His grades. He was graded at age 50 on his performance at 18. Sometimes somethings seem to follow you around forever!

Blast! What a mistake in judgment they’d made. Cam would have been the best, the most quintessential of browner adult students that ever was. How could they make this judgment without even seeing him? Talking with him? Was he going to take this lying down? Apparently yes. “Oh well, I guess it wasn’t mean to be. If God wanted me to go back to school I would have been accepted.” “Forget that”, was my retort, “God helps those who help themselves! There must be some sort of appeals process.” And there was. And he did. He was required to write an essay defending himself and also provide three letters of reference and recommendation for an internal tribunal to reconsider his admission. Piece of cake. A dear friend of ours–a professor at a renowned Ontario university–stepped up and volunteered a letter in Cam’s defense before we’d even asked her if she’d oblige! One down, two to go. Another friend, who’d been a provincial Minister of Education years before, also volunteered unprompted (aren’t friends that quickly come to your aid the best?). And lastly, some speaker and author wrote a letter of recommendation, too. And then we waited, and waited and waited some more. On a late July day-only 6 weeks before school was to start-the letter arrived. Accepted! (With the proviso that he maintain a 2.5 grade point average; otherwise he’d be out!).

And so, with only a few weeks to spare, Cam scaled back his business projects, passed over a fair percentage of his clients to worthy colleagues (keeping just a boutique-style number of clients for himself), and went back to school…at 50.

In the weeks leading into September Cam told everyone who’d listen that he’d been accepted to the U of T. Every friend, every neighbour, every call-in client. It got to the point where we all began rolling our eyes and mouthing his exact words, in unison, as he picked up each successive phone call. He was puffed with pride.

And then the reality of his choice set in. The glory pre-school Frosh days gave way to the grunt work of the hard-slogging, mid-term trench days. Telling everyone he was going back to school turned out to be more fun than actually going. Cam was a daytime student, in there with all the late teen and twenty-somethings. Rather than a “big man on campus”, he was that “old man” on it! And he felt every inch his age. Never more so than when he got his first test grade. C-. Not good. Not for him, anyway. He started to confess, “What was thinking of??? I can’t do this. I’m too old. These kids are so smart and so quick. Who am I kidding? I can’t keep up. How do I get out of this and save face??? I showed off to so many people all summer and now they’re all calling to see how I’m doing!” To which I responded, “Hey! It’s only one grade and it’s a C – not an F. That means you’re just at the tail end of average. Is it so bad to be “average” first time out in 33 years??? Hell, my first grade at university was a D+ and what was my excuse? I went to university right from high school! Buck up and look forward. You can do this.”

And so, not because of my pep talk, but, rather, to save face with all those to whom he’d bragged, Cam soldiered on. He poured over every nightly reading like an exam was scheduled the following day. When his next assignment results returned, what did he get? An A+! And then another, and another and another. Now there’s no living with him! He’s such a smart Alec now. There ya go. He needed a 2.5 grade point average to be allowed to stay in school? He finished his first year with a 4.0. Now Cam is plowing through his second year with all the same grades glory he demonstrated in his first…and with a clear and dedicated purpose and focus that he will major in Cultural Anthropology with a Specialist in World Religions, and with an eye to achieving his Ph. D–yup!–by the time he’s 65. And I just bet he’ll do it, too!

And the moral of this third story, as I see it, is:

  • remember that what you do as a fledging can follow you around right through your old geezer or crone days!
  • but you can still always go back to school (or on to a new job, new profession, or whatever) and, as Cam would say, “start burning new cerebral pathways”
  • “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”
  • sometimes it’s good not to take “no” for an answer/persevere and press on for a “yes!”
  • explore something new just for the pure pleasure of it, if you like, but also be open to the possibility of getting official credit for what you learn along the way, too
  • acknowledge that resistance is energy from which you can grow
  • don’t be a “Lone Ranger”; when you need support, ask for it–at least a few gems from your circle of influence, and those that truly care about you, will quickly and gladly step up if they know you need a hand (but you have to believe in them to do so; people often only live up to our expectations, so expect the best from your best people!)
  • trust that all will sort itself out over time, and be open to where life (or your job, etc.) unexpectedly takes you next; you may be in for a delightful, serendipitous surprise
  • once you’ve identified your purpose, work a plan to hold your intention

If your “Ghost of Wisdom Yet to Come” demanded that you consider your medium to long-term professional and personal future, how would you respond. Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 and 15 years from today? In what professional capacity would you, or could you, see yourself contributing? What one shift in thinking or action can you commit to today and next year to satisfy that hungry spirit of “Wisdom Yet to Come”?

How do you see the moral of this particular story? What are your insights? I welcome your input and will gladly add your thoughts, either anonymously or acknowledged, as a footer to each story, if you will kindly send me your thoughts via email at: nina@ninaspencer.com, placing the words “WW Story 3 Feedback” in the Subject Line.

Epilogue:

On Your Way to Believing in Yourself,
or Encouraging Others to Believe in Themselves,
Be a BIG Believer in the Follow Through!

What do all three of these tales shared have in common? Perhaps many themes, but, for me, the one that stands out most is the importance of the professional follow through.

The follow through is everything in work and in life. It’s often the factor that separates the satisfied from the dissatisfied. Whether in relation to private or professional life, as this most challenging and often difficult year draws to a close, perhaps now is great time to “play” 20 (10) questions, and answer the following:

“When it comes to me and 2010…

  1. Where do I want to go, professionally? personally?
  2. What do I want to do with my (work) life-a whole new decade! Yikes!
  3. How do I want to feel about myself and about my professional contributions/how I make my living, day-in and day-out?
  4. With which professional colleagues and friends do I sincerely want to spend better, quality and quantity time?
  5. Who are my top ten favourite inner circle friends and colleagues?
  6. Who quickly comes to mind when I think of those that are truly “there” for me/truly in my corner, no matter what?
  7. Despite how many people need a “piece of me” on any day, how can I ensure I protect a desirable proportion of my available time for those that matter most?
  8. What business networking and personal relationships do I want to develop/take to the next level? For what benefit or satisfaction?
  9. What strategies will I embrace to make that happen?
  10. Did I make any new friends or quality acquaintances in 2009? If not, why not and do I want to rectify that in 2010? If so, how do I intend to do that? What actions will I take and/or what attitudes and/or behaviours within myself must I adjust?
  11. What natural or hard-earned skills, talents or gifts would I like to resurrect (that I’ve been “leaving at the door” this past year or longer)?
  12. Do I appreciate a sense of “making haste” on ideas and actions that I’d like to advance this coming year? If not, why not?
  13. If I do appreciate the need to “make haste” on at least one exciting or daring new idea I wish to implement in my (work) life this coming year, what is one solid, doable action to which I can commit and complete as early as January 31st to advance my cause?
  14. Do I really believe in myself professionally? if so, how do I demonstrate that, both to myself and for others it? If not, why not, and how can I turn that self-limiting belief around in 2010?
  15. As a parent, friend, loved one or colleague, do I tell those about whom I care that I believe in them? If not, why not? Do I intend to turn around and do so? If so, with whom will I first express this positively reinforcing sentiment?
  16. What positive things could happen if I told my most cherished others how much I truly believed in them?
  17. Do I intend to be happy?
  18. If so, what personal attitudes and philosophies can I embrace to ensure I achieve that disposition, come what may? And if I’m already happy with my professional and personal lot in life, what do I consciously intend to do to keep that attitude and feeling in a holding pattern?
  19. Am I already as good with the “follow through” as I could possibly be? If not, how do I plan to do better?
  20. Am I ever going to, “get around to it” (whatever “it” is for you)? If not, why not? If so, on what date in 2010 do I intend to start? How about January 1st? :

When it comes to you and 2010, what further questions and challenges are you putting forward for yourself? What are your insights about how to motivate yourself/what to do next? I welcome your input and will gladly add your thoughts, either anonymously or acknowledged, as a footer to this epilogue segment, if you will kindly send me your thoughts via email at: nina@ninaspecner.com, placing the words “WW Epilogue Feedback” in the Subject Line.

And to give you an encouraging little butt-kick into the New Year and fire you up about your new plan of professional action, perhaps it will help to hang on to these words of wisdom:

Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first.
— Brain Tracy, Author/Speaker

If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always got!
(if I want to get something different, I’ve got to do something different!)

— Ray Crock, Founder, McDonalds

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
— W. H. Murray, Mountaineer/Writer

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
— Johann Wolfgang Goethe

And, finally, this last paragraph, from Leo Tolstoy’s Short Story, Three Questions, is offered to you by way of the same fine friend who shared the opening quotation of, “I believe in you”:

Remember that there is only one important time and that is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Click here if you would like to read Tolstoy’s Short Story, Three Questions, in its entirety.

It’s almost 2010. A whole new year. A whole new decade. Plan to make the most of it. Start strategizing now, in December, and plan to believe in yourself in a whole new way–more than you ever have before. Now is the time to arise from any bushel under which you may have been hiding (the full extent of your talents), and shine on in 2010.

My sincerest wishes of good luck and good fortune to you for your exciting, hopeful and promising days ahead.

I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in you.
— Blaise Pascal

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